Atlanta has been called the “best city in the nation to be an artist,” and today Mayor Kasim Reed announced his desire for a dedicated funding stream to boost that rep: a one-tenth of a penny increase to the city’s sales tax.
“Our small- and medium-sized groups, our young and emerging arts, need additional support,” he said during his “state of the city” speech, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. “We need to give back to the creative community that gives so much to our city.”
In the November election, Atlanta voters approved two other sales tax increases, related to transportation, to bring the city’s sales tax to 9 percent, the AJC reports. One of those taxes, effective for 40 years, could raise $2.5 billion for the region’s rapid transit system; the other, effective for five years, would raise an estimated $300 million for city projects.
The Georgia General Assembly would need to authorize a referendum for the arts tax, according to the Atlanta Business Journal, and the legislation will be modeled after a Denver arts tax, which brings in about $50 million annually. As Next City has previously covered, that tax (particularly a recently proposed funding re-allocation) has its share of critics. Nevertheless, it passed easily last year.
In 2014, reporter Nate Berg examined for Next City how cultural institutions in cities across the U.S. have faced financial crises since the recession, and the innovative ways some have managed to stay afloat. “For arts and cultural institutions today, survival hinges on entire ecosystems of individuals, organizations, governmental entities, taxing structures and special programs,” he wrote. “Even mayors are getting into the act, with more cities than ever before creating offices of arts and cultural affairs to support public art and local cultural programming.”
Reed’s plan comes at a time when artists and arts supporters are nervously awaiting details on President Donald Trump’s federal budget plans. Reacting to a report in January that his administration is considering the elimination of the National Endowment of the Arts, many are already mobilizing to protest such a cut.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.